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Friday, September 26, 2008

Stealthy Disability

Forty eight hours ago President Bush signed ADA Amendments Act that restored the protections of the ADA originally signed by his father in 1990. When the ADA was signed by the current President's father the ADA was considered to be a major advance in civil rights. I vividly recall when the ADA was passed. It was the lead story on many national news programs. I was thrilled and thought that I would share the same my civil rights as my fellow Americans that not disabled. As many know, the Supreme Court was not impressed and in decision after decision gutted the ADA. Fast forward almost twenty years and the ADA Amendment Act is now law designed to restore the intent of the original law. Is the passage of the ADA Amendment Act a success? I hope so but I have become hopelessly jaded. The ADA was ground breaking in 1990 but fell well short of my expectations. American society has remained resistant to change and I am still discriminated against on regular basis as are most disabled people. Why am I skeptical the ADA Amendments Act will make a difference? Much has to do with the reception it has received. Not a single news paper has covered the story. Not a word has been printed about it in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or other national news papers. In fact I sincerely doubt any American has a clue as to what the ADA Amendment Act is or that it was signed by the President. I could not even find a story about the ADA Amendments Act on every obscure C-SPAN broadcast I get on my TV. So unlike 1990 I have absolutely no expectations the ADA Restoration Act will help disabled people in general or me in particular. I will soldier on with my advocacy and scholarship but I do so knowing the struggle for disability rights is an uphill and thankless battle. Grim thoughts from a gloomy and rainy Friday in New York.


Anonymous said...

Lousy mood to start the weekend with, BC. Can you find someone on the street to run over or chase? (You know I'm kidding, but much truth said in jest, eh?) I wouldn't try to convince you to change your tactics (already tried, didn't work), but I will think-on it for coming up with something new for the advocacy team.

william Peace said...

Very funny. I have not hurt any bipedal humans in quite some time. Well, at least not physically. I may not have changed my tactics but I sure have listened to you with an open mind. I try to be more tolerant but it is not easy. And when compared to banks and corporations going belly up disability rights does not seem as important a news issue. Here in New York even my wealthy neighbors are impacted by the financial crisis. School taxes are due in three days and I wonder how many cannot afford to pay them.

Anonymous said...

Ahh! Tolerance! I had not thought of that might have something there, BC. If we just wait them out (see my eyes narrow and look shiftily side-to-side) THEY will come over to our obviously-right side.

As a cultural anthropologist, you are likely better than the average child-development-specialist at seeing the BIG PICTURE. You know that culture does move/change over time - doesn't it? Please tell me it does! I suspect, sometimes in ways that are stealth. Your friend, bb

Since your disappointment was directed at the lack of media coverage of the ADA AA signing....perhaps media coverage is the wrong threshold for advocacy. Gives media a lot of power. Culturally, I do think Americans are convinced of the power of the media. The media has become the arbiter of our needs and wants, our culture. ? What do you think, BC?

william Peace said...

Tolerance is more than a word. It is something most bipedal humans know nothing about when it comes to including people that use a wheelchair. I am willing to tolerate the presence of people that can walk. Sadly, those that walk are not as enlightened.

Yes, as a cultural anthropologist I should be able to see the big picture. And yes culture is changing. American society is far more inclusive than it once was. That is the physical environment is much more accessible to disabled people than it was 30 years ago when I began using a wheelchair. Disabled people are also not routinely institutionalized as they once were. However, social change has been far slower and has not matched the physical and architectural inclusion. Sure disabled people can enter many buildings, go to school, and attend sporting events or concerts but that does not mean they are welcome culturally.

Looking at the big picture the best way to change society is through education. Teach young people that disability is part of life and that disabled people are no different in terms of equal rights. Based on my experience, this is being done in some schools but not in all of them. A second way to change the world would be through the media. This second effort has not as yet taken place as the media does an abysmal job portraying disability.

The above is not a very good reply to your inquiry as I can only really speak for myself and not all disabled people. Your astute questions require complex, long, and detailed answers that go well beyond my little blog and effort to change the world. But my spirits are better today as I am about to head outdoors in the mist to kayak with my son.

Anonymous said...

I feel better. Thanks.

I recently watched a documentary on dvd about the 'dark ages' in UK - debunking the myth of an invasion in the 10th century. Why did she bring that up? Because they were talking about cultural changes in terms of centuries.

We seem to have expectations that change will occur faster than that. I believe in the spread of ideas even if the idea is started by only 'some' (schools, media). We both need to keep plugging [with]tv!

Does your book have screenplay potential? (Did you listen to my interview on WebTalkRadio?)

Your reply pleased me, BC, and I'm sure anyone who reads will be the better for it. Thanks.

william Peace said...

I wish social change was much faster. The slow pace of culture change has positive and negative elements. On the negative side I sincerely doubt disabled people such as myself that use a wheelchair will ever be equal socially. The concept of equality, disability as civil rights, has and will continue to diffuse into American culture. This is why I will never stop advocating on behalf of all disabled people who remain disenfranchised.

I have no idea if my book has screen play potential. That idea is very hard for me to imagine. I live an ordinary life and doubt anyone would be interested. My book is about my life but the real focus is on societal ignorance and bigotry.

I listened to some of your podcast or webtalk. Like comments posted here, it was very interesting. I have to make a long drive this week and will listen to the rest.